Cole Thaler Safe and Stable Homes Project Director
Before joining AVLF, Cole was a supervising staff attorney with Georgia Legal Services Program, where he represented low-income rural Georgians in a variety of civil matters. From 2005 through 2009, Cole worked for Lambda Legal, a national legal organization that works on behalf of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people, and those with HIV. Cole received his bachelor’s degree magna cum laude from Williams College and his J.D. from Northeastern University School of Law. He shares his home with two rescue dogs, three rescue cats, and a husband.
Staff Attorney, Standing with Our Neighbors Program
Ayanna Jones-Lightsy Staff Attorney, Standing with Our Neighbors Program
Ayanna is a staff attorney with AVLF, where she specifically focuses on housing issues in Thomasville Heights neighborhood of Atlanta. She obtained her B.A. in history from Clark Atlanta University. After obtaining her degree, Ayanna worked in the field of education for the next four years. She attended Emory Law School, and upon graduating she worked for Georgia Legal Services Program for seven years. As a legal services attorney, Ayanna worked closely with the low income population of North Georgia to address issues such as unemployment, public benefits, subsidized housing, domestic violence, and elder care. Ayanna went to work for a small medical malpractice defense firm in Decatur for four years prior to joining AVLF.
Community Advocate, Standing with Our Neighbors Program
Christal Reynolds Community Advocate, Standing with Our Neighbors Program
Christal Reynolds embraces the saying “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” She is the Community Advocate for the Standing With Our Neighbors Initiative based in the Thomasville Heights Community in Atlanta. Prior to this role, Christal served as the Strategies Manager with Communities In Schools of Georgia, a dropout prevention organization. She received a B.A. degree in International Studies from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and obtained a Master of Public Administration degree from Baruch College in New York City through National Urban Fellows.
Matilde Davis, originally from Gary, Indiana, is AVLF’s Program Coordinator, working primarily with the Saturday Lawyer Program. She moved to Atlanta to attend Emory University where she received her B.A. in African American Studies and Women Studies in 2009. After graduation, Matilde worked for five years with an asset management company that sells and maintains the integrity of government owned properties. She is passionate about helping her community while working for a great organization. In her free time, Matilde likes to kickbox, read, and bake healthy treats.
As the intake paralegal for Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation, Kenisha’s primary responsibility within the organization is to act as the first method of contact for individuals facing evictions, garnishment, repossession, landlord/tenant and wage claim issues. She received her start in the legal profession in 2006 with Legal Services of the Virgin Islands and joined Atlanta Legal Aid Society in 2008. Kenisha has been part of the AVLF staff since August 2012. She majored in Legal Studies at Kaplan University.
Christan Rozzell has lived in Atlanta for 13 years, and currently calls Vine City home. As AVLF’s newest Safe & Stable Homes paralegal, she is tackling issues that incubate systemic poverty in Atlanta. She brings almost 10 years of paralegal experience to this role, along with a wealth of community service work with organizations such as Care, Hands on Atlanta, and the Empowerment Council. On the weekends, you’ll find Christan at a food drive, community clean-up, or at a workshop to help organize Atlanta’s communities. She also enjoys writing poetry, taking Afrikan Martial Arts classes, traveling, and relaxing with friends.
Sharlena Foster is a native of Colorado. She originally attended Metropolitan College of Denver and is now pursuing a degree in Criminal Justice from Georgia State University. Having lived in Georgia since 2013, she first became involved with AVLF as a paralegal volunteer with the Saturday Lawyer Program. When not assisting clients in AVLF’s housing programs, she enjoys going to the movies and cooking.
Jamie Perez Safe and Stable Families Project Director
Jamie Perez is the director of the Domestic Violence and Guardian ad Litem programs at AVLF. Jamie trains and mentors volunteer attorneys to represent victims of intimate partner violence and to serve as advisors to the court on the best interest of children in high-conflict custody disputes. Jamie graduated from Ohio University with a B.S. in Journalism and went to law school at the University of Georgia. Prior to joining AVLF, she worked at Holland Roddenbery LLC where she practiced family law.
As the Safe Families Office Staff Attorney, Joel focuses on offering legal assistance and representation to survivors of domestic violence and manages the Safe Families Office (SFO) in the Fulton County Courthouse with Partnership Against Domestic Violence. Prior to joining AVLF, Joel was the Supervising Staff Attorney at the Georgia Law Center for the Homeless, where he managed its legal programs and provided legal representation to individuals and families throughout Metro Atlanta who were at imminent risk of becoming homeless, or who were already experiencing homelessness, in the areas of landlord-tenant law, family law, disability law, and wage and labor disputes. He received his J.D. from Florida Coastal School of Law and his B.A. in International Studies and French from Berry College. Joel is a native of Guadalajara, Mexico, and is fluent in Spanish and French.
Nilufar Abdi-Tabari Staff Attorney, Family Law Program
Nilufar Abdi-Tabari is the Staff Attorney for AVLF’s Family Law Program. Nilu graduated from Georgia State University and went to John Marshall Law School. Prior to joining AVLF, she worked as the legal advocate for Partnership against Domestic Violence at the Safe Families Office providing legal assistance and safety planning for survivors of intimate partner violence.
Cynthia is the Safe Families Office Legal Navigator for AVLF’s Domestic Violence Program and works directly with the SFO Staff Attorney and in partnership with staff from PADV to provide legal assistance to domestic violence survivors. As the first point of contact at the SFO, Cynthia greets and directs survivors to the appropriate person or area for assistance. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from Georgia State University in 2008 and a Master of Science in Conflict Management from Kennesaw State University in 2011. Cynthia has a strong background assisting victims as they navigate the courthouse and has worked in just about every courtroom in Fulton County as a prior Victim/Witness Advocate in the District Attorney’s Office and serving as a Judicial Case Manager for a Senior Judge. In her spare time, you can find her at a local spin class or reading the latest publications on balanced and restorative justice.
Lilli Crowe is the Program Coordinator for the Safe and Stable Families Project, which allows her to work within the Domestic Violence, the Guardian ad Litem, and the Probate Information Center programs. She spends most of her work days in the Safe Families Office at the Fulton County Courthouse assisting survivors of domestic violence in petitioning for temporary protective orders against their abusers and subsequently coordinating volunteer attorneys to assist those survivors in obtaining 12-month protective orders. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology with a Sociology minor from the University of Georgia, and when she’s not navigating the wild west of the courthouse, she likes to explore the world and read.
Camille Millar is the Social Worker for the Safe & Stable Families Project. In May 2013, she graduated with a bachelor’s in Social Work from Georgia State University, and from 2014 to 2015, she became an AmeriCorps Vista and volunteered in Spartanburg, South Carolina. She had the opportunity to work at an outpatient drug treatment center and improve health outcomes for adults suffering from behavioral health issues by connecting them to community resources. She joined AVLF in 2016.
Martin L. Ellin has served as the Executive Director of the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation since 2001. Marty came to the Foundation after nearly 20 years in private practice in Atlanta: Marty had admired the Foundation since its inception and his strong commitment to service to the poor made the chance to promote equal access to civil justice irresistible.
Michael became AVLF’s Deputy Director in January 2014, after previously serving as the Director of Housing and Consumer Programs, managing a variety of programs that provide legal representation to low-income individuals and litigating in the areas of landlord-tenant law, unpaid wages, debt-defense and debt collection. Michael came to AVLF after working as a Staff Attorney for the Georgia Legal Services Program, representing low-income Georgians in a variety of civil matters. Prior to coming to Georgia, Michael was a fellow at Public Justice, P.C., a national public interest law firm in Washington, D.C.; he also spent several years working for change in the Texas state legislature. Michael, who holds a Masters in Social Work from the University of Texas at Austin and a law degree from the University of California at Berkeley, spent his final year of law school studying at Harvard Law School and clerked for the Honorable Catherine C. Blake of the United States District Court for the District of Maryland in Baltimore before beginning his legal career.
Libby is originally from Columbus, GA, and has served the Atlanta community for almost 17 years. Previously, she was Director of Institutional Advancement at Atlanta Technical College. Prior to this, she raised funds for ovarian cancer research and served in fundraising and community outreach roles at Visiting Nurse|Hospice Atlanta. She was a communications assistant in the Office of Governor Roy E. Barnes after graduating from Clemson University with a B.A. in Political Science.
As AVLF’s Marketing Director, Carey Kersten manages the organization’s communications, branding, and PR efforts. A native of South Texas, she has lived in Atlanta since 2009. Carey holds Bachelor and Master of Arts degrees in English and Technical Communications from Texas State University, and she has over 15 years of business development, event planning, and marketing experience. She loves to read, travel, and spend time with her husband, former AVLF Board of Directors President Avi Stadler, and their adorable baby daughter.
Katie handles all of the online communications for AVLF, overseeing the organization’s social media campaigns, newsletters, and website. A native of Atlanta, Katie recently moved back to the city after completing her master’s in Southern Studies at the University of Mississippi. She is passionate about community engagement and the city of Atlanta, and recently completed a documentary film on the Sweet Auburn Curb Market. Katie also holds a BS in Journalism from Boston University. Follow her on social media at @katiecarterking.
Jon is a graduate of Vanderbilt University (BA 1999) and lives in Decatur, Georgia. Jon has been employed in the non-profit sector since 2000. Jon joined the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation in 2013. In addition to his work, Jon also owns a small martial arts studio and teaches martial arts to adults and children.